Orang laut

“Dulu I nampak you lagi tinggi, sekarang dah kurang sikit.” That’s certainly not a comment I was expecting from him.

He’s Awi, a sailor, boat maker and guesthouse owner. In that order. I first met him two years ago, during my attempt to meet Ellen MacArthur. I stayed at his “Yellow House” that’s not yellow anymore and he had extended an invitation to sail with him the Reunion Island, a French outpost in the Indian Ocean. However, the trip fell through and I was bummed for a while.

Yesterday, since it was a public holiday, I decided to go look for him and get some answers. Pulau Duyong is about 15 minutes drive from my current abode and it was kinda nice to go back to that boat haven.

I spent about an hour with Awi, he explained about how the planned trip had been postponed until this July, how he had lost three mobile phones to the sea and he told me of sailing trips he has taken in the past couple of years. Langkawi, Kuantan, Johor and to nearby islands of Kapas and Redang.

When we first met, I thought him to be in the late 50’s but he’s closer to 70, if not already now. With his tall and lean frame, long hair in a ponytail and uniform of bermuda and t-shirt, I would never have guessed he is that old.

Business is good for Awi – his guesthouse is almost full most of the year and he has been commissioned to build two sailboats. Boat making is where the money is, a complete 42-footer can cost some RM200,000, if not more. And that is considered a small-sized boat!

“Cengal (the type of wood he uses) costs about RM8,000 a tonne now,” Awi said, and a tonne of wood can only get you the floor of a boat.

Awi showed me his boat yard, where he employs five workers, most of them in their 60’s and 70’s. It’s just a few metres away from his guesthouse.

Kayu Timber

All the timber at his yard can get me a nice little house somewhere. Seriously.

It was nice catching up with the pakcik. He still calls me perempuan Melayu yang gila bot, so I guess it’s all good.

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